In Defense of Dog-Earing

Don't hate me.

I have a confession to make: I dog-ear my books.

Yep, that’s right. To note my place before I stop reading, I’ll quickly fold down the top right corner and crease it with my nail to make sure it stays. And when I pick the book back up again, I lovingly smooth the corner back into its rightful shape and read until my train pulls into the station or I stop to make dinner, at which point, I’ll dog-ear another corner.

Ok, I know this is controversial. I’m aware that there’s a popular school of thought among avid readers that says Do No Harm (To Books), which includes breaking spines, writing in the margins, and the pesky dog-eared corner. Some readers consider altering a book’s original form to be a cardinal sin and that those who do simply just don’t respect the literature.

As the new Editor of Read It Forward (hi RIFers!), I’m definitely a book lover. I often trip over stacks of hardcovers piled precariously around my apartment. I’ve been so engrossed in novels that I’ve missed my stop on the subway during my morning commute and ended up in Queens—multiple times. Read It Forward’s TBR calculator tells me I’ll be 91 before I finish everything on my current “To Be Read” list.

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But I believe that books are meant to be loved—to be creased, to be folded, to be stained by an errant drop or two of coffee. I enjoy taking a beloved book I’ve read multiple times off my shelf and looking at the pages. I am reminded by the faint trace of folded corners where I’d stopped along the way. Some sections are bigger than others, meaning I never paused once while engrossed in those pages. It’s almost as if those corners serve as a scrapbook from my reading journey.

books and coffee

And while I use the top corner to mark my place, I’ll often fold the bottom corner on pages where there is a particularly lovely phrase I know I’ll want to come back to. When I re-read these passages, they instantly transport me to the way I was feeling when I initially read it.

I like my books to live full lives right alongside mine. To feel the sand in between their pages when I’m reading on the beach or to have the edges curl up from moisture in my wrinkly fingers after I’ve been reading in the bathtub. And when they get put away on my shelves, I feel as though they’re good friends who have grown up with me—we may be a little wrinkled, but no worse for wear.

So in celebration of National Book Lover’s Day (Today! Who knew?), I hope you’ll accept me as both the new Read It Forward editor and a bibliophile who creases her corners. I promise that I respect literature and will be bringing you the best book recommendations here on Read It Forward to ensure your TBR pile stays nice and full.

 

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you try to keep your books pristine, or are you a fellow dog-earer? Let me know in the comments!

 

Photo credit: Abbe Wright (reading Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement); shutterstock.com/Everything

About Abbe Wright

Abbe Wright

ABBE WRIGHT is the Editor of Read It Forward. As a kid, she used to get in trouble at summer camp for using a flashlight to read inside her sleeping bag after lights out, but these days, she lives in Brooklyn, where nobody minds if she stays up late reading. She has written for Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Cut and tweets about books (and The Bachelor) at @abbewright.

  • Patty

    As long as the book is yours, you should be able to do with it what you want. However, I have to admit that I am sad when I find a library book with folded corners. I believe those books should be treated with more respect.

    • Angie Lovvorn Quinby

      Agree completely. Almost all my books are creased and dogeared, but I try to treat library books with more care.

      • Alana from RIF

        100% agreed. Library books should be treated gently so others can enjoy after you’ve returned them.

  • jwhittz

    I have some quirks about dog-earing: if I own the book and it’s a standard paperback, that definitely the way I mark my page (and I’ll crease the spine and mark it up if the writing moves me).
    But if it’s hardcover, or even if the book’s deckle edge, I use a bookmark because it seems to be a lot easier to find my place that way. I use a bookmark for library books and books borrowed from friends, because I am not a monster 🙂

  • Kaira

    I have always “dog-eared” (never heard it said like that before) my pages, even when I was very little. I remember people (my brothers, anyway) thought it was very annoying, which confused me for a while because I thoughts that’s just what you did to any book that didn’t have an attached ribbon to use as a bookmark. I try nowadays not to fold the pages in my books because it has actually started to bother ME a little bit… but it really doesn’t matter! I love your view of these things adding personality to a book.

  • tracy shephard

    i love a battered well read dog eared book.. although none of my own are like this OCD wont allow it

  • Helen McT

    I dislike dog eared pages. I use anything else handy to mark my spots. Bills, bus transfers, Bobby pins if it is all I have handy. I use post its and flag for pages I may refer back to. I picked up the reading bug very young and used the library so much I just respeced the books and carry on the practice. If I were in the habit of dog earring and borrowed a friends book I would hate to think I may accidentally damage some one else’s property. I do find it interesting when I find an old used book to read some other readers marginalia though.

  • If I buy it I use it. My boyfriend is more of the “do not touch my books if you are going to damage it” kind. Me on the other hand, love how my bookshelf is filled with books I noticeably read (bent spines, flags, dog ears, stains, etc.) I do not like books that look untouched and unloved and I do not care buying such books with a price reduction as long as the story is still readable. 🙂

  • Judy741

    Abbe, I conform to your upper AND lower corner dogears, for the very same reason you suggested. I especially like to go back and re-read phrases, sentences, passages, even new or unusual words, and feel the need to differentiate those marking from where I simply left off reading. Happy to know that someone else do this as well! Now excuse me please…back to my book.

  • jess

    The point about not using a bookmark is you memorise the paragraph and where it is down to the thickness of the page wad either side. Memorise where the paragraphs you like are too, which is often quite easy because they have some story surround to cue you in. If this gets too much, or if there are too many too remember, insert small sheets of paper with some word or other written on them. One shouldn’t write on books or alter them in any way, because it disturbs the reading experience and this will change every time so it has to have no obstructions. People who dog-ear books are just vandals, and don’t understand that the book is likely to open on the very page you want if you apply enough concentration. This is down to lack of sensitivity, and also a curious approach to reading: what if you read only a page in one sitting because you’re on a bus or cooking or ‘just have to’? Or the bath, when you’d get through five, etc. You’d be having to fold down the corners a lot, and every time you did it, another desecrated page, and more evidence of lack of faith and laziness. Bad things do happen to books, inevitably, but this is deliberate, and just because you’re so uninterested you can’t remember the page you’re on. Even a book that has no value at all still needs to be read as a vale of memory and recognition and not be helped out with this folding down the corners behaviour – then you burn it later. N.B. Anything wrinkled (paragraph seven) is worse for wear, because it has been worsened by wear.

  • glorea shor

    I BELIEVE BOOKS ARE SACRED OBJECTS, NOT TO BE DESECRATED!!!
    HOW CAN ANYBODY THINK IT IS FINE TO FOLD A PAGE???
    BOOKS ARE TO BE CHERISHED AND IF YOU CANNOT FIND ANYTHING TO HOLD YOUR PLACE IN THE BOOK, YOU SHOULD NOT BE READING IT!!!! I RESENT ANYBODY DEFACING A BOOK IN ANY WAY AND FOLDING THE PAGE IS A CRIME TO ME!!!

    • Syl4

      Am afraid that’s the way I feel as well. Looks like we might be in the minority. I hate reading a damaged book and dog-earring leads too easily to torn pages.

  • Victoria

    Love this. I dog ear all my books!! My favorite copy is a paperback Gone with the Wind I have that I’ve flipped through and folded so much. I fell in love with that book that summer and I love seeing the life in the pages. My Wuthering Heights copy has tears from me crying on the pages and my James Patterson book has sand from the beach! I dog ear my cookbooks, but I protect the pages while I cook by propping them up on a cookbook stand that has a page protector from splatters. I prefer hardbacks so the spine stays pretty and when I’m done reading the books all dog ears are flattened out smoothly. Thank you for defending dog earring and for phrasing it so nicely.

  • Jessica Morgan

    I don’t dog ear my pages to mark my place, I use a bookmark. However, I do dog ear the bottom corners to mark things I want to remember, I highlight, I underline, and I make notes on what I may have gotten from certain excerpts. I do not worry about the spine of my books until the pages want to fall out, then I scotch tape then back into place. I have thousands of books, and only a few have I read only once. I try not to put my books face down while open, but sometimes I do to stir dinner or go pee. I lend my books, and I’m only ocd about getting certain ones back. In short, I use a bookmark, but I am not one to place judgement. ?

  • Patrick jordan

    Only time I won’t dogear or hilight is if it’s a expensive 1st edition.
    But normally I have reading copies.

  • tamkeen

    i do this but i also ease up the corners for i think books should be respected,loved and taken care of. 😉

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